Dogfighting in the Department of Chimera (A Work in Progress) – Part VI: Wrapping Up a Deconstruct

Deconstructing a Snippet of the Minutes of the December, 2008, Faculty Meeting of the Department of Film and Media Studies

[What Really Goes on Behind Some Walls of the Academy]

Morris stated that he had unresolved issues with faculty. These details were written in his group emails to faculty. Roman responded that he will follow up any complaints 
made by Morris with the Ombudsman. — Shanti Thaku, the minutes of the December, 2008, faculty meeting.

I’m considering encouraging my students to BLOG here, and I’m certain that they would be uncomfortable participating in a BLOG site describing the dark side of the department where they major, minor or take classes even though I believe the info here could help the committed students to navigate this place so that they could get the best out of an educational operation that I have described on numerous occasions as one of Farce & Mediocrity.

That’s the reason for the wrap-up of this deconstruct, though, by now, the internecine imbroglio has pretty much distinguished itself in the Academy here at 68th and Lexington on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, though my colleagues, would never admit that in any kind of forum.

That’s because they are awash in chimera.

On with the wrap-up.

Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, the Acting Chair, started off the February 18 department meeting praising the chair, Jay Roman, on a sudden leave of absence this semester [sudden, that is, to me], and the former chair, Stewart Ewen, as “great” leaders. He also expressed fear, his voice quivering, about trying to follow in their august paths as a acting leader for one semester. Great chairs?


Roman wasn’t at the meeting where no one responded and no one gasped at the “great” leaders comment. There were no jeers. No rebel yells. Nor moans nor fidgeting in the chairs surrounding the conjoined tables set up conference style where we sit. There also were no cheers, hoo-ah’s, back-slapping nor any other joyous affirmations inspired by Hurbris-Cherrier’s quivering praise. The room was silent except for his voice.

What follows is an anecdote – I have loads I’m trying to weave into a narrative – that I believe puts my silence in perspective. I got this email during the last year from my department chair before he was dispatched, telling me that he and the P&B preferred that I not teach basic reporting for a while [syllabus, assignments, interviewing rules]. They believed that the reputation of that class as a tough one as I taught it was responsible for a drop in enrollment in the department’s journalism and media courses.

I kid you not.

The chair and the deputy chair and the media studies advisor were quoted, directly and indirectly, in an Envoy article almost a year ago offering other reasons for the decline in enrollment across the majors, film and media studies (journalism is the equivalent of a concentration though it could be a lot more robust with serious leadership). I wouldn’t say they lied. I wouldn’t say they fabricated. I haven’t heard any rational explanations in department meetings, though, I have my suspicions. The influential colleagues making policy and decisions in D:F/M pretty much eschew student input. There is one-way communication, no two-way. They also eschew info from colleagues like me, for example, who know more about journalism and journalism education than anyone else in this department if not the school. That’s what they are: The big eschew-ers. The reality that they couldn’t have a face-to-face discussion with me says a lot about the dynamics of this department. I thought my response was rational and reasonable but I won’t provide that here. I’m saving it for a rainy day.

Nevertheless, there are moments when I experience this wry state of consciousness catalyzed by episodes of chimerical lunacy that seem as if they’re about to swamp me like a tsunami, and I have to decide, usually quickly, Do I take them out now, or take them on later, just as I did a while back when some colleagues, upset about my FORD Foundation grant, were jeering and sneering wildly at a department meeting – I kid you not – as I sat there evaluating my options: Take them out now, or take them on later?

I chose later, the plan mischievously but salubriously punitive, salubrious for me, not them, as it reverberated through the College Listserv where I had described the department meeting. My F/M colleagues have a lot to hide. I don’t. At the subsequent department meeting after the listserv post, I was expecting and was prepared for an all out, no-holds-barred, in-yer-face-teeth-gnashing brawl, an Academic melee of volcanic proportions. I expected to hear, Quotation Marks for Effect,  “Son-of-a-bitch. You describe us as redneck hillbillies infected with mad redneck disease!” My rejoinder was to be something like, Quotation Marks for Effect, !@#$ Bring it on. *&$yourmommaauntsuncles&%!+! No one, however, snapped or growled, though there were was obvious smoldering in the conjoined seats. I saw fidgeting that revealed rage – especially from the non-tenured colleagues who had been the main chorus of what I described as hillbilly rebel-yelling.

They wimped out.








Before the March meeting, I got this response from the Acting Chair about my wish to change the vote I had erroneously made in the February department meeting.


Hi Gregg,

Votes are tough because the procedures for relatively minor votes (approving minutes) are the same as those for significant votes (Dept. Chair).  I think that in this case the proper protocol would be for you to indicate at the

next faculty meeting your desire to be on the record as having changed your mind about the vote cast at the February meeting to approve the minutes of the December meeting.  This change of heart will be recorded in the minutes of the March meeting.Â

Take care.

— mick


Change of heart?! I had erred, I hadn’t read the proposed minutes sent out before the February come-together. I voted on something that was egregiously misconstrued, misreported, misrepresented. I goofed. And I was suppose to show up expressing a change of heart?  I showed up at the March meeting and voted against the minutes of the last meeting even though the scribe had nothing to do with the issue/minutes of my concern. I wanted to make a point. I plan to reiterate until there is closure.

My chair once told a former acting dean in an email – this is an accurate paraphrase – that the issue of enmity between me and him and colleagues was my unwillingness to do what my colleagues wanted me to do (I have the original emails: mine, his and the dean). I responded that I wouldn’t engage in nor assist colleagues involve in the illegal, the immoral, the amoral, the wrong, the flagrantly iniquitous.

The higher powers believe this imbroglio could negatively impact the department. I know that it negatively impacts students. Two influential colleagues I queried about this concern told me to ignore the higher-ups (and, in a sense, my experiences and observations) because everything was cool. So, with their comments in mind, I put this to the department at a faculty meeting and the chimera flowed.



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